By: Katie Sobiech
As we conclude this series on the world of re-entry we share the great news that recidivism is dropping in Summit County and the numbers are showing improvement through the efforts of the Summit County Reentry Network (SCRN), Oriana House and others.
The SCRN is proud to say that they are changing the county and state of Ohio for the better, and reaching new goals every day.
“It’s all about reducing recidivism, increasing public safety, reuniting families and strengthening our economy,” Terry Tribe-Johnson, Summit County Reentry Coordinator, explained of the overall goal.
They are accomplishing this one step at a time, creating what she calls a “win-win” situation for both returning citizens and the community.
Changes from County to State
Positive changes in the way we handle returning citizens has now spread from county level to state.
“The state (of Ohio) is very excited to now be at a 28% recidivism rate, meaning, of the people who come home (from prison), 72% do well, and 28% don’t. They go back,” Tribe Johnson explained.
The recidivism rate was a lot higher just 3 years ago.
“Many of the lower-risk people now are being diverted back into the community, which is good,” Tribe-Johnson shared.
Measurements are taken every 3 years to see how well things are going overall in this area, and a close look is taken within the 3 years to see how many people return into the system.
Summit County used to have a 40% recidivism rate, which has dropped.
“Through many things coming together it’s now 33% that go back and 67% who do well,” Tribe-Johnson explained.
The 33% that end up re-offending after being released is the number that they are striving to change.
“The ultimate goal is to have less going back to prison, which means they’re committing less crime,” Bernie Rochfield, Executive Vice President of the Oriana House, explained.
The Oriana House, which has been applying research-tested strategies and programs for years, has an even lower recidivism rate. This goes to show that what they are doing is working.
The SCRN and others are looking to the Oriana House to see what works and what doesn’t.
Changing the Numbers
So the question is, how can they continue to change that 33% who re-offend to their ultimate goal, which would be 0%?
Throughout all of this, there are specific areas in these men and women’s lives that must be worked on.
“There are domains to be addressed, including attitude, who they hang with, education, employment, chemical dependency support – those are all domains,” Tribe-Johnson shared.
And program providers must be aware of and implement these things in what they’re doing in order for any change to occur. This is why it works so well and they see such great changes at the Oriana House.
Changes for the Better
Oriana House has seen such positive results because of their ability to adapt to what works.
“We’ve totally changed our chemical dependency treatment delivery and how we work with the clients and deliver the services. GED is not just a GED; you have to have the cognitive approach for it to be most effective. Those are some major changes that are pretty exciting,” Rochfield said.
Implementing these changes has contributed to their success.
Funding What Works
The key to success in this area is building upon what works and doing away with what doesn’t.
“The state has looked at all the halfway houses and this is how they’re now making funding decisions. They’re looking at Community-Based Corrections Facilities (CBCF), a state funded program run locally, and residential halfway houses,” Rochfield shared.
After much funding and research, the state, through the University of Cincinnati, evaluated CBCF s and found that not all met the benchmarks they needed to. In fact, many were actually increasing recidivism.
This led to 3-4 halfway houses and 1 community based corrections facility (CBCF) being shut down.
“That was a big deal. No one thought the state would actually pull funding on a CBCF but they actually did,” Rochfield said.
“Some didn’t change their programming to address the specific needs. Their thought was ‘this is how we always did it so it’s how were always going to do it’. But if you’re not getting results, you’ve got to change,” Rochfield stated.
Low Risk Offenders
The other problem is that half way houses and other facilities were holding low risk offenders.
“If you take in a low risk offender you’re going to increase the likelihood they reoffend,” Rochfield said.
Mainly because mixing low-risk offenders with high offenders only gives low-risk people more of a “criminal mind”. It’s not healthy peer support.
Doing Something Right
The good news is that Summit County is doing something right, changing programs based on what works, which has led to recidivism numbers dropping.
“There’s a lot more to do when talking about where we would like it to go, but I’m getting calls from Mahoning, Stark and Portage County asking ‘how have you guys gotten to where you’re at? Can you come and talk to us?” Tribe-Johnson shared.
The word is spreading and proving they must be doing something right!
They credit the great collaborations within the county, and people’s willingness to work together towards an overall greater good.
“Summit County is amazing with the collaboration. We’re so lucky in Summit County to have this easy-going collaboration. We’re all in it together, for the greater good,” Tribe-Johnson said.